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Going home

Shard of Glass | Monday, March 28, 2011

The fencing team psychologist has told us many times about the process of “going home” — closing your eyes and imagining yourself at the threshold of home, taking a few steps in and imagining where you are, taking in the details, the smells, and the sounds. Then you go into your room, opening the door realizing that this is your home. Then you fall on your bed, calm and relaxed.

The idea of “going home” is a common one. There is a sense of peace. I always smile when Notre Dame students, myself included, say, “Sure, I’ll be over soon, I just have to run home for a second.” Home is certainly not just where you grew up. It can be any place where, when you arrive, there is a sense of a burden falling off your shoulders. This place can also be as big as a city — driving on the highway and seeing the sign saying your city is 5 miles away — or an individual home, or as small a place as your own bed with the covers pulled over your face.

Taking in the feeling of your blankets or flipping your pillow to the cool side are all examples of going home.

We see literary examples of “going home.” In Richard Lovelace’s poem, “To Althea, from Prison,” the speaker says, “Stone walls do not a prison make; / Nor iron bars a cage. / Minds innocent and quiet take / That for an hermitage; / If I have freedom in my love / And in my love am free, / Angels alone, that soar above, / Enjoy such liberty.” For the speaker, home is being free in love and soul, not dependent on the physical location. The physical location of home — city, house, bed — can help to bring about a state of mind that can also be considered “home.” Home is peace. For some people, the actual, physical home is not peaceful.

But for everyone, there is a mental home that provides a sanctuary, a place of repose. From there you can reload, repose, and respond.

When Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his Letter from a Birmingham Jail he was certainly home, and like the speaker in Lovelace’s poem, free in love and soul:”I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?” Only at home could King have crafted such an eloquent and profound response to the violence and discrimination in Birmingham and the rest of the country. Prison bars did not confine.

The things in our lives that act as prison bars and stone walls have the power to both confine us, or be a place of refuge. The deciding factor is whether or not you are home in that place or in that endeavor. As the semester nears the end and exams and papers are due in all classes, it becomes even more important to go home. As studies become hard, go home. As problems arise, go home. Once home, it is a stepping off point to move forward calm and collected, with eager and keen mind, ready to face whatever lies ahead.

Alex Coccia is a freshman. He can be contacted at acoccia@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not

necessarily those of The Observer.